Archive for the ‘humour’ Category

some more emails with my brother

March 2, 2015

On 3 Feb 2015 04:27, “NEWMAN, Ross” wrote:

I just felt like a bombastic opening. Once again I have finished my jobs for the week and it is only Tuesday. I have grown weary of my self-inflicted stop-gap jobs, and have begun counting the days until we jet off for New Zealand, there to re-enact the famous Etna Creek Prison Classification Committee Meeting of 1981. Period costume will be the go, simply because that’s what we are still wearing. We (that is, the Classification Committee) remain victorious; the star turn of that distant day, whose name I cannot mention, has enjoyed an almost unbroken stay in prison to this day.

I wonder did any news of our State election reach you? I had vowed that if Labor was voted in I would migrate to NZ. Well, as it happens, neither party is able to form government, so I may have to compromise and live on Stradbroke Is. They, the pollies, have got what they deserve. Prior to the election they were muttering darkly about raising the GST, selling ‘assets’, and restricting retirees’ access to superannuation, while in the same breath voting themselves a huge pay rise.  Spain (or is it Greece?) appears to have been forced down a similar path with the election of that vicar-like smiling guy, who
claims to have somehow found a way of avoiding austerity.

We exhausted ‘House’, and moved on to ‘Outlander’. Suddenly it was pulled half-way through season 1 – how dare they? – so we have switched allegiance to ‘The Tunnel’, which is an English production about a murder in the Chunnel Tannel (oops, but I think I will let it stay). Most of the fun is in the mis-communication between the English and the French policepersons. The crime part is a bit too much torture-porn for my liking. I like a good swift killing, if kill we must. The only actors I can understand are the French, but that’s only because they get English subtitles.

I swam 26.53 for 1500m.!  I stoppeth one in three.

Much love to all and the dogs,

Greybeard, the Loon


On 3 Feb 2015 10:08, “Jill Barker” <> wrote:
Now there’s a coincidence.  I emailed you yesterday. No doubt you’ll find it when you open your home email.
I even asked about the election!
Wherefore stopp’st thou me? I was on my way out – not to a wedding but to walk dogs and then to gaze upon my ship, idle in its icy surround. Was planning to boat today, but not sensible in ice. So I’ll just light the fire and run the engine and read the paper that I haven’t used to light the fire and have a bacon sandwich.  How I suffer! And (it goes without saying), a bucket of coffee.
Beginning to like this idea.


On 3 Feb 2015 10:10, “Jill Barker” <> wrote:
btw I think anyone can mention the name of someone found guilty – it’s in the public domain.  Or is that only UK?

Sent: Tuesday, 3 February 2015 8:16 PM
To: NEWMAN, Ross 
Subject: Re: Greybeard

This is amazing. I still haven’t got my boots on and have to stop and listen to someone singing ‘linden lea’. Really touching.  And thus I connect with both brothers within five minutes.
(Singer was roderick williams if u want to chase it up). (Or rhodri? Maybe)
On Wed, Feb 4, 2015 at 4:12 AM, NEWMAN, Ross wrote:
Good point, but we go to extraordinary lengths to protect the identity of those in our charge. I’ve always taken it for granted. Perhaps the difference is that they ARE in our charge?! Must look in the legislation.

On another note, I’m out of whiskey. May try one of the Irish this time – Jamieson’s has something of a rep, I believe.  Can’t get that Spotted Grouse here, or whatever it is that Andrew drinks. ‘Famous Goose’, perhaps?

As to boating in winter, I can’t think of anything more satisfying than sitting in a tethered canal boat toasting gently in front of a fire and letting the world shiver past. Surely the miracle of buoyancy is appreciated by some part of us?


On Wed, Feb 4, 2015 at 10:01 AM, Jill Barker <> wrote:
I know what you mean about whisky.  Can’t remember any of the names (except Teachers, for obvious reasons – I always knew it was meant for me.  Well not quite always – but ‘always’ since I resigned myself to the teaching profession – incarcerated, you might say, but without the benefits of anonymity).  I needed to close that parenthesis.  In Austrlia all those years ago I recall drinking Jonny Walker – or rather I recall other people drinking my Jonny Walker.  Bear a grudge?  Never!

I like the cheap blends  too, but one can go too far.  In France we found one called Sir [something ridiculous – not Eglamore] that was barely drinkable.  But I have been much enjoying the Aberlour that some kind soul gave me for Xmas – may even have to buy a top-up bottle soon.  But whiskey????  Give me strength!  It’s too sweet-ish and heavy flavoured for my taste.  Speaking of which I had a cocktail at Will’s bar the other day (actually called the Duke of Cambridge – a good name for a French whisky) .

That singer’s name is Roderick Williams – he has the voice that we all thought we had when we sang in the car – not unlike singing in the shower, I guess, for reverb. qualities.  I cam e across a security question today – the make of your first car.  Didn’t choose to use it as I couldn’t reliably predict what I would answer under stress in five years’ time.  (Holden? Beetle? all those family cars???)

Must stop – the dog walk bus leaves at ten –

I blog at:
From: Jill Barker [] 
Sent: Wednesday, 4 February 2015 8:03 PM
To: NEWMAN, Ross
Subject: Re: Greybeard

the bar is the Duke of Cambridge.  The drink was actually a ‘Mitch’.  ref. obsc.

I blog at:
On 4 Feb 2015 22:47, “NEWMAN, Ross”  wrote:
Wasn’t aware there was a distinction between whiskey and whisky, unless playing scrabble. Struggled to choose from the bewildering array in the grog-shop and eventually fled with a Haig on the probably spurious basis of family ties, in spite of alarm bells ringing (in my head, I had paid for the thing). And I was right, Haig is a bit of a harsh brew. May have to mix it with Fruity Elixir from a box. I had just finished a delicious 18 year old scotch (or scotche), but I couldn’t remember exactly what (which shows it is working). Something obvious, anyway, without being Johnnie Walker.
The Water Police breathalyse boaties in Moreton Bay – does that happen on the canals too? There’s a 22’ sailing-boat called ‘Bluebird’ that was designed in Australia in 1947, and went on to become hugely popular. I’ve been browsing the web and checking 2nd hand prices. I could be on a slippery slope … You can google it if interested, but don’t be duped by the Edwardian super-yacht of the same name. (Imagine the barnacles.)

Our government is in care-taker mode, which means I have no work. Aaaahg!





From: Jill Barker [] 
Sent: Thursday, 5 February 2015 7:57 PM
To: NEWMAN, Ross
Subject: RE: Greybeard
I think there is no canal breathalysing. Rules but no enforcement.  Drunks walking on the canal path sometimes fall in and drown – not realising that you only have to put your feet down.  So that’s self-policing in a way.
Caretaker government eh? So the floors will be clean and the doors securely locked.
Re whiskies, I understand the extra e to indicate American whisky (poss. aka bourbon?) While the short version is the scotch. But what of the Irish? I hear you cry. What, indeed. Research needed.
Im on my phone – morning- and wearing out my thumb. Dogs and teeth – avanti.
No work- I sympathise. Sooo boring.
Just make sure you don’t buy the racing car. How rusty would that be?  A fixer-upper, as the trolls in Frozen would call it.
To me 6th Feb



Brisbane storm – some emails

December 4, 2014

Dear Ross
Sounds like a disaster movie! I’m just reading about the storm this morning and really hoping that your roof stayed on and that none of you was out in it. Would love a reassuring email if you have a moment.
Love from Jill

Nov 30 (4 days ago)
to me

Hi Jill

Wow, that really was some storm! We are fine, no damage to selves or property, but it was a somewhat harrowing experience. I was stuck in a train, fortunately in the subterranean station at Toowong, where there was no indication of wild weather. The train was stalled due to lack of power (and, as we later discovered, due to a house having blown onto the tracks), so I launched forth in search of a bus. When I climbed to ground-level, I was met by the most ferocious wind and rain I have ever seen, including, I think, the Chennai typhoon of 1987. The rain was such that to venture into it would have been like swimming underwater. There was absolutely no prospect of vehicular traffic, so I returned to the comfort of my train and my Kindle.
Vanee had a tougher time of it, because she decided to make a run for home in the car. She was caught in the thick of it, but luckily the car stood up to the hail, so all she had was a frightening experience without any real incident.
Our former stamping ground of Yeerongpilly, Fairfield etc looks like a battle ground. The ground is strewn with shattered trees (and I mean shattered), and houses have grown canvas carbuncles where there used to be rooves. If you want your window fixed, you have to wait until next year. I hear there was one fatality, but I don’t know any details of that.
Our mother was fine throughout the storm. Delphi Court with its solid masonry is one very a strong structure. And the up-side of that is, she feels vindicated in her claim that she should have jetted off to somewhere (anywhere) to escape all this devastation that the comet is causing. The comet puts pressure on the atmosphere, you see.
Unfortunately the Courier Mail assures us that we can expect a similar weather-event as early as this week. The upside of THIS is that I feel vindicated in my claim that we should all move to Tasmania now in order to beat the rush. (No rush as yet, but wait til news of the comet gets out. I should tell Mum to keep mum.)

Astronomically yours,
Thank you for that marvellous update. I’m so glad you are all ok. (I had an immediate response from mum so I knew you were safe but none of the details.) May I blog your finely-tuned prose? Everyone in the family here will want to know about it.
We are promised a ‘snow event’ later in the week. Or maybe later in the month.  I wasn’t paying attention.
Isn’t it cold in Tassy?
Lots of love
Dec 1 (3 days ago)
to me
Blog away! And yes, Tassie is cold in winter, but not as cold as NZ. And in Tassie, the ground doesn’t shake, housing is cheap and the locals speak English. (Not what the English call English, of course.) But our children and friends live in Brisbane … (I mention NZ because it is the only viable antipodean alternative to Tassie.)

SNOW! Really? It’s barely winter! Brandy is an excellent anti-freeze. (No, I don’t mean for the car.)

Speaking of cars, our venerable Toyota developed a minor but seemingly unfixable fault, so I sold it for $150. Boy, did I see them coming. Panic-struck, I set off to buy a cute little Honda Jazz, but it was just too twee for a bloke. With one toe I could simultaneously apply throttle, brake and clutch, while changing gears with the passenger’s knee. What I took to be clashing gears turned out to be a warning growl from the crusty, brilliantined car-salesman. (They all daub their hair with muck now, as if it were the 1950s.) So I accidentally bought an old Camry instead. Much too big and thirsty, but low Ks and owned by an elderly couple who only drove it to the letter-box. You have to watch the extremities, though, the steering is seemingly effected by bungie cords.

How are the dogs? And the boat? It occurs to me that one expensive survey doesn’t necessarily mean that all surveys will be expensive. Whereas vet bills! Well!

Love to all,

Cooking Risotto

September 15, 2014

I have been cooking for many years, sometimes with courage, sometimes with cowardice, but I’d never cooked risotto.


Partly because I’d heard that risotto is notoriously difficult to prepare.

Anyway, who could be bothered eating boring old stodgy rice when pasta is so fabulous and varied?  And easy. Marcella Hazan warns:  [risotto] is the most misunderstood of all the well-known Italian dishes.  

Marcella Hazan

Her description of the basic technique takes up a closely written page and a half  – and that’s before you get on to the recipes.  Maybe this is why some of my friends shudder when I mention risotto?  That sharp indrawn breath that’s almost a whistle whips through pursed lips – only partly in jest.

By Marcella’s standards, Margaret Fulton  (in the 1969 cookbook Mum gave me when I first left home) gets it horribly wrong – and she doesn’t even give a recipe!  (Don’t get me wrong – Margaret Fulton gets lots of stuff right – her book was my cookery bible for decades. )

2014-09-12 10.16.16

lost its dust jacket, and a little gnawed by a puppy in 2007

Rice for Italian risotto is prepared by first putting the unwashed, uncooked rice into hot oil or fat and frying to brown a little.  Stock or other liquid is then added and the rice stirred until the liquid boils.  The dish is then simmered or slowly baked until the rice is cooked.

Lovely Nigella Lawson, who has built a career on making cookery look easy, tells me about ‘stirring constantly’.  It’s knife-edge stuff.


But after much careful stirring and measuring, she offers comfort:

Then continue in this surprisingly peaceable manner. . . .

It’s a  little rubric, almost a mantra, that makes me feel that it’s all possible. But still, she’s a chef, and also, she moves on rapidly, after a crab risotto recipe, to various kinds of ways of making pasta seem a little risotto-like.  Maybe she, too, prefers pasta?

So:  fear, distaste and mild revulsion (gluggy rice! urk!) coupled with reluctance to bother – all characterised my attitude to risotto as a concept.

Tosca’s Mamma changed all that on our last night at Riva del Garda.


2014-07-01 07.49.34

Mountains above Riva del Garda


She served us an amazing, fabulous, creamy, savoury, smooth dish of something that may once have been rice but had now married with an extraordinarily delicious kind of mushroom and gone to heaven.  She achieved this apparently without effort or attention, while showing us around her lush vegetable garden.  Nigella, eat your heart out!  I’m no foodie, but I came home planning to make a breakthrough and learn how to cook risotto.  (I use the teach-yourself method. As any of my friends will tell you, I’m a hopeless, even recalcitrant listener.  My bootstraps are yards long after all the dragging I’ve done on them.)

The first risotto I made was according to Marcella.  I used the nice long grain rice in my cupboard and some posh mushrooms.  It was OK.  The mushrooms were nice but the rice was really just like cooked rice.  Obviously I had to buy the right kind of rice after all – arborio rice.  Even I have heard of that, though reluctant to spend up big for something as ordinary as rice.  Turns out I am still behind the curve – you can get quite a variety of kinds of rice all specially for risotto.  My hand hovered over the shelves of infinite varieties of rice, and plumped for arborio.  It sat in the cupboard.

A few weeks later, then, I had a go at my second risotto.  I refelected on my mistakes and tweaked several other things.   I must have cooked the first one too long, I decided.  With the right sort of rice, I used a stock cube as instructed.   So I ended up with a dish that was a little crunchy – not creamy soft at all.   And it tasted of chicken stock cube, about which the kindest thing to say is that it tastes commercial.  The smell reminds me of that packet chicken noodle soup we used to have as kids.

chicken noodle

We didn’t use Batchelor’s but I thought you would like this artwork.

It’s a smell of poverty and you can still nose it drifting from somebody’s Pot Noodle if you are not careful.

noodle soup

We actually had Continental brand.  Here’s a B&W version of the packets that stocked our cupboards – that and mushroom soup were the great favourites in our family.  Needless to say, nobody in our world ever simpered like this poor woman, huddled as she is inside the borders of the advertisement.

My third attempt  – weeks later again – happened by chance really.  I was just back from some distant place, out of everything I could prepare for a meal, and too tired to shop. I generally take this kind of situation as a challenge.  In the freezer there was just a bag of turkey giblets left over from Christmas.  (Yes – I know it’s now September.)   So I made a fabulous stock using those plus the random bendy carrots I found in the veggie drawer, and half a fairly fresh leek plus some chives from the garden and garlic (obviously) and some dried herbs.  Bubble for an hour.  It looked and smelt pretty good.  My usual move at that point would be to make soup – but there in the cupboard, right by the split peas, was the second half of the packet of arborio rice.  And so it began.

This time it involved careful simultaneous reading in all three of those cookbooks, following Marcella’s technique and channelling Nigella’s relaxed style.  And the quantities she gives, as well.  I opened a bottle of the white wine I made in France a few years ago – it never matured properly, and it’s a bit resiny, but a small tot while cooking passes muster.  And anyway, Nigella calls for a glass of wine to start off the rice.  So I sipped and stirred, stirred and sipped.  And ladling bit by bit wasn’t the drudgery people make it out to be.  In the end I had surprisingly used the whole litre of stock, and while stirring and sipping had idly stripped the turkey meat from its bones, ready to chuck into the risotto.  (After all, Marcella does say that it’s not a recipe so much as an adaptable style of cooking.  That’s my kind of cuisine!)

Well – you know the punchline: it was truly wonderful.  Rich and thick and creamy, and so abundant!  I couldn’t finish it at a sitting.  (Well – she does say ‘serves two’.)

Is there a motto?  Maybe it’s ‘Read the Recipe!!’  ?

Or maybe it’s ‘Be Careful which Bits you Ignore‘ – because I can tell you that two of Marcella’s comments can be disregarded (though Nigella is right about the chilli):

1.  you really can re-heat risotto,and –

2.  you really can eat it again the next day.  

Straight from the fridge if you are so minded.

two signs in Adelaide

June 2, 2014
in Adelaide

in Adelaide

I begin to see signs of the Dog Nazis wherever I look.  How nice that dogs can be off lead.  How sad that it is not in the civilised time of day.   There were some even more draconian moments on the Broadwater, though.

Here’s a sign now to accompany the Trojan Hospitality in my previous post.

2014-05-05 04.24.26


What kind of training was that, again?  Would they teach me to be a bard?  to ‘sing in Welsh’ perhaps?  Maybe it involves martial arts, or marital arts, or business studies.  (I like the idea of a specifically Celtic MBA).  Celtic chemistry, botany, nuclear physics – the list is endlessly provocative.

I love this sign, seen at Kenmore, in Brisbane:

2014-05-23 03.52.30


So easily done!

Dogs on Sunday

November 2, 2013

In Berlin

We stayed for the first few days at a lovely place – the Yogitel on Tschaikowski Strasse – which is really a community of families who teach and practice yoga and various therapies.  Part of alternative Berlin, I guess, and very very cheap.  They don’t do breakfast or meals, so one pops out to the local Bäckerei first thing in the morning – only to discover that it is the weekend and so the place is full of families, dogs, relaxation.

On the way down the street I spotted:

lovely tri-colour border collie seen on Grabbeallee

lovely tri-colour border collie seen on Grabbeallee

This beautiful chap was the first I photographed – just because he looked a lot like Bandit.  Nice leather lead, too.

FB keeps asking me to tag these seedy characters, who watched my entire sequence of photographic exploits.  NO, facebook, I really don't know who they are.

FB keeps asking me to tag these seedy characters, who watched my entire sequence of photographic exploits. NO, facebook, I really don’t know who they are.

The streets are populated by families (many wearing bright green), cyclists, dogs. The atmosphere is warm and relaxed.  Little kids come to the shop by themselves and go out with big bags of croissants or buns.  Two little girls had brought the family dog – but I didn’t take their picture – it doesn’t feel seemly to take kids’ photos, and so I have to deny you many many bright green garments, dog owners and cyclists.  But I did take some photos of dogs waiting willingly outside the Bäckerei, or trotting along with their owners.

Standing patiently outside the Bäckerei without a lead at all.  He was there for some time, solid as a rock.

Standing patiently outside the Bäckerei without a lead at all. He was there for some time, solid as a rock.

Not far away was this little poodle –


When I tried to take Pablo’s picture, his owner gave me a rather formal ‘look’ and asked me what I was doing – the only person who was even slightly suspicious.  I explained (best German, worked out in advance) that I was making a collection called ‘Dogs on Sunday’ and she said ‘OK’.  Then her friend got Pablo to pose like this.



– We found out later that we were in fact staying in a quarter (Schönhausen) that had been in East Berlin.  It had been rather smart, though: the location for the foreign embassies.  Indeed, many houses there looked very fine indeed, especially on the Mayakovsky Ring nearby.

By the time I photographed Ken I was becoming quite confident about asking owners for permission.  Ken’s owner spoke really good English and was more than happy to chat. – Ken is a rescue dog and very friendly – you can see from the tail.  He even accepted a treat from me.  ( I didn’t ask about the name.)  He, too, waited outside the bakery off-lead.

little dog at the Backerei

little dog at the Backerei

OK, I thought, that was fun.  Then I caught a very crowded tram down Grabbeallee

discreet, conscientious: a dog that manages a bus, crowds and a complex lead, and gets everything right.

Discreet, conscientious: a dog that manages a bus, crowds and a complex lead, and gets everything right.  You had to admire his style.

to the Mauer Park  ( a park that contains a short stretch of the Wall).  Here the atmosphere is absolutely hopping on a Sunday.  Hordes of people, singers and buskers and ‘acts’ involving comedy/juggling.

slack-wire walking

slack-wire walking – also note green garment on the little boy drawn from the crowd to assist. (‘Leo’)

A massively tempting flea market; loads of fabulous street food.  And (a German speciality, I later found) – deeply concealed toilet facilities.  This last can be a bit of an issue for me – but a helpful stall holder saved the day.  And, to my great joy, I had at last found someone whose English was worse than my German: we communicated effectively auf Deutsch. She was immensely kind and helpful – made absolutely sure that i knew where I was going.

But I am straying from the point of this post: the people in the park were accompanied by their dogs, in the most natural and unassuming way imaginable.  Your correspondent, photographer and dog-lover, was bowled away by the sheer variety and numbers.  And all – all, I tell you – impeccably behaved and happy. Here are a few:


Sorry about the angle – it hardly looks like a dog at all.


Excellent owner-plus-dog combo. Is that dog even on a lead?


A lot of people use these great harness contraptions: must try them out.


This fine fellow was unusual for being a clear cut breed. (most of the dogs at the park were excellent bitsers). I think he is a Bernese Mountain dog.

Tall thin person with tall thin dogs.

Tall thin person with tall thin dogs.

stalking away - having checked out the other dog.  Owners were picnicking nearby.

stalking away – having checked out the other dog. Owners were picnicking nearby.

belongs to a stall holder - maturely calm in the crowd

belongs to a stall holder – maturely calm in the crowd

There’s more to come about the Mauerpark – but I need to find my camera’s connection lead – somewhere in my packing, before I can upload the photographs.  Another day!

eating a goose

October 23, 2013

Here in Berlin lots of restaurants are advertising special goose-oriented menus for the 11th November.

I'm starting to get the hang of Germany, and I bet they eat a lot more than just this.

I’m starting to get the hang of Germany, and I bet they eat a lot more than just this.

So I checked it out online –

Unser Martinsgans-Menü 2013

(auf Vorbestellung)


Amuse bouche

Karamelisierte Gänseleber

auf Thymian-Zwetschgen

und geröstetem Sellerie


Ofenfrische bayrische Martinsgans,

mit Akazienhonig glasiert,

auf Preiselbeer-Rotkohl, Apfel-Maronenpürée

und kleinen Kartoffelknödeln


Kreation von Mandelnougat,

Pattaya-Mango und Madagascar-Vanille


€ 46,- / Person

In the UK, needless to say, the 11th is all about remembrance and the end of World War One on that date.  People try to say that it has something to do with peace – I’m not convinced.

and lots of people wear these things -

and lots of people wear these things –

I wondered how roast goose might fit into this.  The answer is:  it doesn’t.  What a pity!  I suggest we find ways of bringing a roast goose feast back to the UK.  And quickly, too – preferably within the next fortnight or so, what with the eleventh of November rushing towards us.

It turns out that roast goose is part of a much older tradition – and the nicest saint I have ever read about.  The 11th of November is also Saint Martin’s day, and I have to tell you straight away that I’ve found out all this information from a charming wiki entry which I propose now to plagiarise shamelessly.   Saint Martin is the first saint not to have been martyred (there’s a relief) –

not normally a happy experience

not normally a happy experience – this is Saint Sebastian.  I just chose him at random for you.

– he died of natural causes in the fourth century.  The eleventh is an ecumenical date too. Martin Luther was baptised on that day, and so Protestants can celebrate the date as well.  (His parents probably didn’t realise he wouldn’t grow up to be a Catholic.)  Now all we need is a Hindu and a Buddhist connection . . . . No wait on.  I guess the Buddhists wouldn’t want a big roast-goose oriented blow-out.  (Though, bizarrely, there is an eating- goose-Buddha connection.)

a structure that celebrates not eating geese

a structure that celebrates not eating geese

St Martin turns out to have been a great guy.  He gave up being a soldier once he became Christian, which suggests some moral fibre, not to mention a fine capacity with logic.  He is also the guy who divided his cloak with the beggar – showing both generosity and fair-mindedness.

always nice to post a medieval image - the more famous paintings of St Martin show him as a knight in armour, which seems a bit anachronistic

always nice to post a medieval image – the more famous paintings of St Martin show him as a knight in armour, which seems a bit anachronistic

It gets better and better – he went to work for a guy called Hilarius, he missed his parents, and he lived in France (his full title is St Martin of Tours) as a bit of a hermit.  Tours must have been a very different place in those days.  I can relate to that ‘hermit in France’ thing – if his French was anything like mine, it’s more or less imposed on you.  Maybe Hilarius’s French was better – they made him Pope.

later Pope

later Pope

We are told that he died of an illness contracted on his travels  – not quite the same as ‘quietly at home’ but maybe that’s how he would have wanted to go.  I also like it that he isn’t festooned around with loads of improbable miracles, but he seems to have been a saint because lots of people liked him and he was just plain good.

It seems mean to leave you without an actual recipe for the roast goose – but, inspired by St Martin’s example, I cannot tell a lie: I have never roasted a goose.  And so your choice amongst the internet recipes is likely to be as good as mine.  (I like the look of the Hairy Bikers’ version though, as we have lots of apples this year.)

Lastly I am motivated to roast a goose this year because my lovely son William, who has his birthday on the 14th, will be at home – and that’s near enough for me!

the raincoat

August 14, 2013

Mentioned in despatches twice now, the raincoat feels that it deserves a moment all to itself.

a downpour in the Berry - raincoat doing well.

a downpour in the Berry – raincoat doing well.  Also note strong sandals.

Dostoyevsky purportedly said that we all came out of Gogol’s ‘Overcoat’ – he meant the short story, of course, not any literal overcoat.  It turns out that he didn’t mean ‘we all’ in the sense of the whole human race, though one can easily place that kind of interpretation on Gogol’s story.  Taken in context, his comment referred (I am told) to the cutting-edge fiction writers of his time in Russia.  Dostoyevsky’s own ‘new wave’ of writers who explored what it is to be human – and to be human in the darkly cruel social world of contemporary Russia.

There you go – it wasn’t just a post about a raincoat after all.

In fact this is my favourite of all the many raincoats that I have never bought.  Back when we had teenage children, there were lots of visitors to our house.  Sometimes they arrived in wet weather, kindly kitted out with umbrellas and/or raincoats by their fond parents.  Many times the rain had stopped by the time they left, or else they were going somewhere where sensible practical garments were just not cool.

Too cool for a raincoat - no names no pack drill!

Too cool for a raincoat – no names no pack drill!

They left their coats hanging in the hall, and their brollies dripping quietly in the lean-to conservatory out the back.

Darth Vader never wears a raincoat.

Darth Vader never wears a raincoat.

When we packed up that house and moved out we found maybe six or eight ownerless raincoats, and three useful brollies (I didn’t count the broken brollies).

A brolly would only get in the way.

A brolly would only get in the way.

I’ll admit that we had bought some of the raincoats for ourselves in France – caught out by unexpected summer rain (one daughter-in-law would deny the word ‘unexpected’).  One can buy very useful, flimsy rain jackets cheaply in SuperU.  Of all of those, though, the raincoat in question was clearly superior – lined, a perfect fit, strong, and sporting its own hood.  It is even a recognisable brand-name, that chance acquaintances and even my adult kids respect.  Perfect.  Yes – I really did try to find its owner – but it has a happy home with me now.  I am growing ever fonder of it, as it progresses through so many adventures of its own.  Maybe I, at least, have come out of this wonderful raincoat.

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